Health Tips Public Health Students

What to expect during your public health internship

A deep-dive into public health internships for Oregon State students

two students working at an internship

By Hanna Knowles, Karen Elliott and Tonya Johnson

Starting the public health internship search process can bring up a lot of questions. You might feel excited, anxious or a mix of both. This is totally normal. 

The following advice is intended to calm your nerves and help you get the public health internship of your dreams. 

Ways to find a public health internship 

Our biggest piece of advice is to start your internship search early.

Some action items that can help your search include:  

If you are an undergraduate public health student, consider these questions and actions: 

  • What are my career goals and interests related to public health? 
  • Work through the steps listed on the “before the internship” web page.  
  • Set up a meeting with Public Health Undergraduate Internship Coordinator Karen Elliott

As a master of public health student, consider these questions and actions: 

  • How do I hope to use my MPH degree in the future? 
  • What additional skills and knowledge will I need to meet my career goals? 
  • Where might I be able to learn to apply the skills and knowledge that I wish to obtain? 
  • Who might be best suited to assist me in obtaining the desired set of skills and knowledge that I need?  
  • Reach out to public health professionals and/or organizations to learn more about their work and possible opportunities. 
  • Consider applying to internship postings you find online, the MPH website or MPH listserv. 
  • Meet with MPH Internship Coordinator Tonya Johnson and your faculty advisor to discuss ideas and brainstorm possible contacts.  

Pro tips:

Your practicum or internship location needs to be solidified before the start of the term you have registered for.

If you’re an undergraduate public health student, start looking for an internship location during Weeks 1-3 the term before you plan to do your internship. Or even earlier!

MPH students are encouraged to start the search at least two terms in advance of when you’ll be doing your internship.

Examples of past public health internship locations 

You can choose where you intern, and we encourage you to research locations that match your interests. 

Here are some examples of where Oregon State students have completed their public health internships: 

  • American Heart Association 
  • American Public Health Association 
  • Center for Disease Control 
  • Corvallis Clinic 
  • Grace Center (undergraduate only) 
  • Local public health departments, including Benton, Crook, Deschutes, Lane, Linn, Marion, Jackson and more 
  • Marquis Companies (undergraduate only) 
  • Oregon Health Authority  
  • Oregon Health and Science University 
  • Oregon State University Center for Health Innovation 
  • OSU Extension Service 
  • PacificSource 
  • Rede Group 
  • Samaritan Health Services 
  • The Springs Living (undergraduate only) 
  • Upstream Public Health (graduate only)

Make sure you earn academic course credit for your internship 

At Oregon State’s CPHHS, internships are built into your public health course requirements. This allows you to receive guidance on how to apply specific skills and knowledge to community-based projects, growing your understanding of the public health field. 

This setup also provides you with additional professional development and support so you’re prepared for the workforce. 

To receive credit, you must be registered for the term you plan to complete your internship. 

You will make a real contribution during your public health internship 

In your undergraduate public health internship, you will: 

  • Be involved in real world projects that are beneficial to an organization and community. 
  • Apply skills and knowledge from your coursework in the public health major. 
  • Receive mentoring and advice from an internship preceptor. 
  • Receive feedback on your work and insight related to career opportunities. 
  • Complete a professional portfolio that captures your full internship experience including one example of your work. Examples include assisting with a health needs assessment; assisting with planning a health outreach event or fair; assisting with a health care survey at a clinic, assisted living community or hospital; developing educational materials or health policy strategies, and more.  
  • Attend meetings and other site-related opportunities. 
  • Understand and apply personalized strengths using the CliftonStrengths Assessment
  • Develop long lasting connections. 

In your MPH internship, you will apply your skills and knowledge to contribute to public health challenges that impact the community by working with an organization on a specified project. Some examples of previous projects: 

  • Assessing the feasibility of implementing a needle exchange program in rural Oregon. 
  • Completing an analysis of descriptive pesticide exposure trends. 
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of tobacco prevention and education programs. 
  • Conducting community-based participatory research in a rural village in Botswana. 
  • Conducting a community food system needs assessment. 
  • Mapping the critical public health infrastructure. 
  • Developing a social media plan for suicide prevention. 

Some other activities could include attending meetings with internal and/or external stakeholders, developing plans, reviewing literature, analyzing data, giving presentations, talking with community partners and more.  

Support and resources are available 

Karen Elliott is your go-to contact for undergraduate public health practicums and internships.  

Tonya Johnson is here to support your MPH internship experience. 

They’ve created detailed web pages to help you succeed! Be sure to review these for requirements and additional details: